Root & Rebound publishes toolkit to enlighten employers on the value of hiring ex-offenders

Root & ReboundOakland, Calif.-based nonprofit Root & Rebound has published the California Employers’ Fair Chance Hiring Toolkit. This 28-page toolkit is not just an exceptional resource for companies and organizations that are committed to – or considering – hiring those with criminal records. It can also be used by jobseekers from that population as a persuasive tool to enlighten potential employers on the considerations and benefits they would gain from hiring them.

Although it may be hard to believe, nearly one out of three Americans has a criminal record. As the economy continues to grow and demand for additional workers steadily rises, it will become increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to ignore that segment of the population.

In fact, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in 2014 between 1.7 and 1.9 million U.S. workers weren’t hired because they had criminal records. This resulted in an estimated loss of $78 to $87 billion in annual gross domestic product.

Hiring fair chance employees makes economic sense

Hiring those with criminal records makes economic sense both in the big picture and for companies themselves, but most employers still need to be convinced.

More than 40 large corporations and nearly 250 small- and medium-sized businesses, however, have already taken the Fair Chance Business Pledge created by the Obama White House in late 2015. These businesses have promised to give people with criminal records, including those who have been incarcerated, a fair chance at employment. We suggest you review these businesses that have taken the pledge to see if there are any you might want to consider adding to your list of 100 employers to pursue.

While this is a beginning and brings attention to the issue, it’s crucial that more companies become committed to hiring second-chance employees. And that’s where Root & Rebound’s toolkit comes in.

Toolkit provides extensive info for all employers

Although it’s geared toward California employers, much of the advice and most of the action steps it recommends can be useful to employers no matter which state they operate within.

The California Employers’ Fair Chance Hiring Toolkit covers:

  • The rewards of hiring fair chance workers.
  • The best practices for onboarding and training fair chance workers.
  • How to choose a reliable background check company.
  • Legal compliance and minimizing risks involved.
Giving copy of Toolkit to the hiring manager shows initiative and having their best interests in mind.

As you interview for jobs, along with your turnaround packet you may want to print out and provide the hiring manager with a copy of the toolkit to offer them information on the additional benefits that they might receive by hiring you and what steps they need to take to do so. If you live in California, this toolkit covers all the basics that an employer needs to know. If you live in another state, check with your local American Job Center to ask for help in adding relevant state-related information.

Benefits of hiring fair chance workers

The toolkit includes evidence that fair chance employees can benefit a company or organization by highlighting:

  • Case studies of companies that have hired second-chance employees with great success. For example, Johns Hopkins Health System & Hospital, Dave’s Killer Bread and Butterball Farms all have hired a substantial number of employees with criminal records and found that their turnover rate is lower than that of those without records.
  • Testimonials from executives of companies that have been actively hiring fair chance employees for many years.

Root & Rebound’s California Employers’ Fair Chance Hiring Toolkit is very well put together and an excellent resource for both employers and job seekers alike.

 

Why ex-offenders should consider entering an apprenticeship program

apprenticeshipApprenticeships not only tend to be ex-offender friendly offering second chance employment, but they are also an excellent way to learn a set of skills that are in high demand among employers. And if you’re seriously determined to find a job, entering an apprenticeship may be the way to go.

In fact, there are statistics to back that up. Human resource consulting firm ManpowerGroup, in its 2016 Talent Shortage Survey, found that of more than 42,000 employers surveyed worldwide, 40 percent are finding difficulty filling job openings, the highest number since 2007. And for the fifth straight year, the hardest jobs to fill are skilled trades.

Top 10 jobs in terms of talent shortage
  1. Skilled trades
  2. IT staff
  3. Sales representatives
  4. Engineers
  5. Technicians
  6. Drivers
  7. Accounting and finance staff
  8. Management executives
  9. Machine operators
  10. Office staff

This fact, if nothing else, should encourage those leaving jail or prison to consider a career in the trades. But there are also other reasons, most notably that:

  • 91% of those completing an apprenticeship program gain employment.
  • The average starting wage for trade union jobs is above $60,000 per year.

Apprenticeship programs can appeal to those with a variety of skills and interests and be for jobs with titles that range from boilermaker or carpenter to meat cutter or sheet metal worker.

Although the programs may last from one to six years, the average length of an apprenticeship is four years. They combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction, during which participants may learn math, drafting, how to read blueprints and other skills necessary to perform a particular job. Apprentices are paid a wage – which usually starts at 35 percent to 50 percent of a full-time union job for that industry – and receive regular pay increases during the duration of the program.

How to find an apprenticeship program

There are hundreds of apprenticeship programs across the U.S., and to find out more about those in your area, you can visit your local American Job Center or search the Internet using search words like “union apprenticeship directory.”

The results that will come up may include directories of specific trade union groups, as well as directories put together by state government agencies. Here are a few examples:

California Department of Industrial Relations Division of Apprenticeship Standards

Indiana union construction industry

Maryland Apprenticeship and Training Program

Massachusetts building trade

Minnesota building and construction apprenticeship programs

Ohio Department of Job and Family Services apprenticeship directory

Washington Building Trades apprenticeship programs

The U.S. Department of Labor maintains a list of links to all state and U.S. territory programs.

Once you decide what type of trade you might be interested in, contact your local American Job Center or a specific union office or training center in your area for the details on what to do next. Taking that first step may lead you to a new career – and a new life beyond bars.

 

Cold calling your way to a job

cold callingWhile it’s certainly not the easiest thing to do, cold calling can be the most effective way to find a job.

Forget sending out countless resumes through job boards. They mostly go into a black hole, never to be seen – by anyone but you – again. But pick up the phone. It can be your most important job search tool.

Since some job experts say that as many as 80% of all job openings are unadvertised, this may in fact be the only way to find the majority of jobs. And there’ll be less competition.

While you’ll want to avoid human resources departments whose job it is to weed applicants out, using the phone to call hiring managers can bring results.

But remember it’s a numbers game. It may take many “no’s” till you get to a “yes,” so keep on calling. Focus on your activity and momentum building and not whether you hear a “no” or “yes.”

Put together a calling list

The first thing you have to do is put together a list of maybe 100 businesses to call where you would be interested in working.

Two possible resources for this are your local phone book – paper or online version – and Business Finder, an online tool created by the American Job Center. This free database offers the name of the business, its address and phone number and key contact people with their titles. The Business Finder also includes each company’s business description, industry code, number of employees, website and even the distance of the business from your location. It offers a variety of ways to search for businesses.

American Job Center also has other resources you may want to consider for finding prospective employers.

Determine who to call

Always find out who you should call in each business. That hiring manager is typically the manager of the department in which you’d like to work. If it’s a small company (say under 25 employees), you might want to get in touch with the company manager, owner or president.

Do your homework. If you don’t already have it, look at the company’s website to see if you can find the name of the person you should talk to. If not, call the main number and ask the receptionist by pressing “O.”

What to say

Say to the person who answers, “I am trying to find out the name of the person who is the manager of (department). How do you spell their last name? What is their official title?” If they are not sure, ask if they have a company directory handy and can look it up. And make sure you ask, “By the way, what’s that person’s email address?”

Then you can later call back and either ask for that person or find them through the electronic directory and talk to them directly. Prepare a script, so you will have confidence, but don’t read from it. You can use your 15-second elevator pitch, a short sales pitch about yourself and what you bring to the job. (There are many examples online, and here’s a site with a variety.) You can also use information from your JIST card to prepare what you’re going to say.

Be enthusiastic, sincere in your interest, and remember to smile. They can’t see you but can sense and feel your smile, and believe it or not, a smile can make you more relaxed and confident.

Consider calling after business hours

If you’re too nervous to call them during office hours, call after hours and leave a message on their voice mail. Use your 15-second elevator pitch emphasizing your strengths.

It might be something like:

“Hi, my name is _______ and my phone number is ________. I love doing________ and am really good at it. I’m confident that I have the experience that could help your company succeed. I think I can offer you (give your three top assets).”

“Again, my number is_____ (say it and then repeat it) I’d like to get together to talk more about how I would be a good fit at (company name). I would appreciate it if you could give me some information about working at your company. As soon as I get off the phone. I’m going to follow up with an email and hope to hear from you soon.”

Send an email with your JIST card attached, and if you don’t hear back in a couple of days, call again.

If you don’t hear back within a week, call one more time, and say something like:

“This is ______. My phone number is ____ (if voice-mail). I’ve left a couple of voice mail messages and know how things can slip through the cracks. I don’t mean to be a pest but I hope you’re the type who appreciates persistence. I just wanted to let you know that I think I can contribute to your company and would love to talk to you about it. I’d appreciate hearing back from you, but if I don’t I promise not to call you another time. Again, this is ______ and my number is _____. I look forward to hearing from you soon.”

Although you may not hear back from all of the hiring managers you contact, those who do call back will help you get one step closer to the job you’re looking for. Remember it’s a numbers game. And never give up. Every “no’ brings you closer to a “yes.”

 

New Career One Stop site provides help for ex-offender job seekers

careeronestoplogo_tcm24-129Career One Stop – sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration – has created Job Search Help for Ex-offenders, an excellent resource for anyone with a record who is looking for work.

The site is basically a one-stop shop for just about everything one would need to know about conducting a job search, with tips and advice on how to find one.

Know your interests

The site is organized in several sections. People may want to start with Know Your skills. It includes a chart that matches various interests with job opportunities. Click on a job type, and you’ll find out how many people are employed in that job, wages they receive and the duties of the job, as well as typical training and also a link to job listings for each particular job which can be sorted by Zip Code.

Not exactly sure what your interests are? The site has you covered with a link to an interest assessment you can take online. It only includes 60 questions and can be completed in about five minutes.

Explore opportunities based on your interest

The assessment is just the beginning. A personalized profile will be generated and then you’ll be asked to decide how much job preparation you have or would like to have. Once you determine that, you can click on a link that will give a list of jobs. Each one has information concerning the knowledge and skills needed for that job, personality traits that make someone good at the work and the technology they might need to know how to use to do it.

Skills developed in prison

A job skills section highlights skills that one might have developed in the type of work that prisons offer – things like food service, welding, machining and sewing. A skills checklist covers soft skills like dependable, creative, flexible, honest, friendly and hard working, all skills that will be appreciated in any employment situation.

Learn about careers

The section on learning about careers talks about the difference between a job and a career and how to decide the steps to take in pursuing a career. An explanation on work restrictions gives general information about what types of jobs might be off limits to those with criminal records.

A useful link to the National Inventory of the Collateral Consequences of Conviction, a state-by-state database of laws related to criminal convictions and employment. Just click on your state on the map and you can find out what laws apply to specific job types.

Another list provides ideas of common jobs that one might be able to obtain after being released from prison.

Setting career goals

A section on setting career goals offers tips on how to create short-term and long-term goals to set you on the pathway of long-term employment. A downloadable goal terminal with things to do and dates they should be completed is a way to keep on track.

A database to help ex-offenders find training in community college settings is searchable by occupation, school or program, as well as Zip Code to find the programs nearest you.

Those who would like help from a professional job counselor can search a database for the American Job Center (formerly Career One-Stop Center), which has free counseling, workshops, and skills training and testing, nearest you.